Paganism, food and spirituality
Touched by Corn
Today I was touched by Corn. Not corn, but Corn.
As I weeded in the hot sun, the leaves brushed my back and I felt a rush of energy washing away the dizziness and fatigue. A whisper-soft offering to my flushed and sweating body.
I’ve eaten corn on the cob since childhood. In the summer, Mom would stop by the roadside in Pennsylvania where I grew up and buy it off the farmer’s truck. I can’t recall ever getting it in a grocery store. It was nearly always sweet. My baby sitter knew many farmers, and they would have husking bees in her basement with her church members all sitting around a massive pile of corn, shucking and chatting. Later, she would cut off the kernels and can them.
Corn emerged from a grass native to the Americas, teosinte, over thousands of years of careful, selective breeding. Scientists speculate 7,500 to 12,000 years. For a long time, the ancestor of corn was not known because teosinte bares no resemblance to its productive descendent. Corn began in Meso-america and only reached New England a thousand years ago. The native peoples of the Americas grew corn together with beans and squash. Corn requires a great deal of nitrogen, and beans fix nitrogen into the soil as they use the corn as a trellis. Squash shades the soil beneath the plants and nutritionally complements the corn and beans. Corn is wholly dependent on humans to survive. If humans do not remove the heavy husk, and spread the seeds, they will not sprout properly. Without it’s human caretakers, Corn would die.
Two years ago, I started saving seeds. Beans are the easiest, and seed potatoes and garlic are not far behind. Last year, I save tomato seeds, and this year’s fruit are green on the vine and looking healthy. This year I decided to try the three sisters, corn, pole beans, and squash. I chose an heirloom variety of corn from the Seed Saver’s catalogue, added some really nice compost I made courtesy of the farm where I keep my elderly horse, and have been giving the plants a fish emulsion fertilizer. Corn likes wet, and the heavy rain this spring has made it happy, the plants were well past the proverbial “knee high” by the 4th of July, and now, ten days later, they are over my head and sprouting tassels.
They make a nice shade when I weed.
Today was hot and I have lyme disease. It has been improving, but I was getting dizzy, having to hang on to the fence posts for a moment when I stood. And then the Corn touched me. I sat down in their shade and grasped the base of a corn stalk. Waves of energy leapt from the plants into my body. I protested weakly, they were supposed to be using that energy for growing! But the leaves whispered that there was plenty of energy here, and I had given much. I shut up, and sat and shook and cried as I received the gift. How could a grass feel so strong?
The Ancestors of the Land once nurtured a relationship with Corn. It was a staple food, far different than the monoculture that now covers the mid-west. They told stories about Corn, and treated him (or her) as sacred. And now I too have a relationship with Corn. From these plants I will save seeds and plant them again next spring. This summer I will load manure into my garden bucket and bring it back to my yard to compost and enrich the soil next year. My labor and care is my offering, and Corn will nourish me in return.
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